Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment


Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Please send all questions to feedback@soundstageaccess.com. All questions sent to this e-mail address will be replied to online. If you do not wish to share your e-mail with other readers, please do not send it. But if you have a question, chances are others are wondering the same thing. Therefore, you will be helping not only yourself, but other readers as well when your question gets answered here.

Hi Dennis,

I love finding new music. The problem, though, is that most truly new music is marketed to young people.

Hell, all of the new artists I listen to (Steven Wilson, Skindred, Sons of Apollo, Devin Townsend) have been around for a long time in some fashion. I had just never heard of them. The only truly new band I’ve actually bought is Animals as Leaders (a crazy instrumental rock trio).

Stuff like YouTube is an incredible marketing tool. And honestly, the major labels are terrible to work for.

You want to see something awesome? Search YouTube for Robert Palmer Albert Hall. While the sound isn’t incredible, the performance is. And, yes, it’s not even close to new. PS: After a rough couple of years, I’m remaking my studio. Do you think a major label wants to invest in a 62-year-old, no matter how good I am?

All the best,
Jeff
USA


Hi Jeff,

See, man? This is what I was talking about in the conclusion to my story about using YouTube to find new tunes. I’m quickly approaching the cane-shaking phase of life, so I’m trying to acquire as many new favorites as I can before I’m incapable of liking them.

By the way, in the spirit of sharing older bands that are newly discovered, check out Dirty Three if you’ve never heard them. You’ll no doubt recognize Warren Ellis when you see him, but I was unaware of this project until I stumbled upon it via YouTube. And the sound quality is quite acceptable!

Dennis Burger

Dear Dennis,

Thank you for your great review of the Sonus Faber Lumina V floorstanding loudspeakers. I’ve been saving for a pair of Lumina IIIs and a pair of subs for a while now. I have a 230Wpc four-channel amp with which to biamp the floorstanders. Do you feel these Lumina Vs would even need subs with that kind of power (similar to your Peachtree Audio nova220SE integrated amp, I think)? My room is about 14′ × 16′. Thanks again for any help. I’d never counted down the days to a damn speaker review until last week.

God help me!

Roy B.
United States


Hey Roy,

In my experience, a sub is absolutely not necessary with the Lumina V, at least not for listening to music. My test for whether or not a sub is needed is Björk’s “Hyperballad.” Honestly, most of the subs that I would connect to my two-channel system don’t deliver that song’s aggressive bottom end as authoritatively as did the pair of Lumina Vs. In fact, before I scooched them forward just a little to get them out from the wall a few extra inches, the bass was just a wee bit too much.

Please check in with me after you audition them. I’d love to hear if you’re as smitten as I was! I really wanted to buy my review samples, but money’s tight right now and I just couldn’t justify it. It pained me to ship them back, though.

Dennis Burger

Hi Dennis,

Nice article. Much like you, I have stopped buying CDs, the last new one being Blurryface by Twenty One Pilots about five years ago. I do still play all of my old CDs though, never having ripped them to FLAC files. I only have about 100 or so, and it seemed like too much work for that limited amount of music. So I never got into the whole computer-as-a-music-server thing.

Besides, as you touched on in your article, there is something satisfying about the ritual of playing physical media. I spend all day on a laptop for work, so playing CDs is a nice disconnect from that. And when I pick out a CD, I reminisce about why I bought that particular CD, and what was going on with my musical tastes at the time.

As I type this, I am listening to the original motion picture soundtrack of Singles, which came out in 1992. Seeing Soundgarden and Alice in Chains perform in a bar in the movie sent me searching for the soundtrack. Now, almost every time I listen to it, I replay the scene in the diner in my head—Matt Dillon, with Eddie Vedder and other members of Pearl Jam, reading the scathing review of Citizen Dick’s latest album. Or the scene where Matt Dillon, with Chris Cornell standing next to him, demonstrates the stereo he has put in her car to Bridget Fonda, and promptly blows her windows out.

I guess I am much more intentional with my listening when playing CDs, and that leads to the memories. I will never give up my CDs while there are still players to be had. I’m playing this CD right now on a Denon DVD-910 hooked up to the optical input of SVS Prime Wireless powered speakers, and it sounds pretty damn good. I picked up the Denon for $30, figuring if it lasts a year, it’s money well spent. Long live the CD.

Peace and happy listening,

Joe Pop
Auburn Hills, MI
United States


Hi Joe,

You’ve touched on one aspect of physical media that I didn’t think to cover in my piece: the nostalgia of objects. As the meme below says, nobody remembers their first download, but everybody remembers their first record. Or CD. Or, hell, even cassette tape. It’s true that most of my music listening these days comes via Qobuz or from my own ripped CDs, but there’s something symbolic about physical media that I don’t want to lose, no matter how inconvenient it may be.

Every time I hold the packaging for Electric Ladyland in my hands, I’m taken back to the bygone days of my childhood in the mid-1970s, when a day-care worker asked us to bring in our favorite records for a show and tell. I brought the only album I owned: Birth of the Bionic Man, a sort of radio-play version of The Six Million Dollar Man. Another kid cribbed his brother’s copy of Electric Ladyland, and when it was his turn to give it a spin, the rest of the kids in my group were positively horrified. I was awestruck. I asked the kid if he wanted to trade records, and he gladly swapped vinyl with me. I’m sure he got a heck of a whooping when he got home. And that is the story of how I acquired my first grown-up record.

My first CD purchase was the 1984 reissue of Steely Dan’s Aja (such a stereotype, I know, but I love me some yacht rock). I’ve upgraded many times since then, with all the esoteric Japanese re-releases and SACD reissues, and the remastered 1999 CD release (MCA Records 088 112 056-2)—the best-sounding version of this album by a country mile—but I still hang on to my original tattered, old CD for reasons that I’ve never really put much thought into until now. There’s some personal history wrapped up in that jewel case. I can hold it in my hand and instantly be transported back to a simpler time.

Thanks for the trip down memory lane, Joe. And don’t ever throw out your old flannel shirts.

Dennis Burger

Meme

To Dennis Burger,

I am excited to see you joining the SoundStage! team. I have always enjoyed your reviews of audio equipment. In fact, it was your review of the SVS Prime Wireless speaker system—including the statement “Even at nearly painful listening levels, I was simply unable to drive the Prime Wireless System into harsh or grating territory . . .”—that has resulted in my purchasing them for my COVID work-from-home office desk. I have long considered the SoundStage! sites to be the gold standard for audio reviews because of the combination of subjective reviews and objective measurements. Looking forward to reading more from you in the future.

Joe Pop
United States

To Diego Estan,

I’m reading all the articles on SoundStage! Access with great interest, and I would appreciate your advice. I recently bought a pair of Triangle Borea BR03 speakers, and now I need to decide on an amplifier to drive them.

My budget is quite small—about $500, maybe to a maximum of $600. But I found an opportunity to buy a Marantz PM5005 integrated amplifier for $300 (in USD); used, of course. Do you think it would pair well with my Borea BR03s? I’m asking because I don’t know how the Marantz’s timbre will match with them. The Triangles seem easy to drive, but I read that special attention should be given to their pairing with an amplifier.

And, if you feel the Marantz PM5005 isn’t quite what I should get for these speakers, what would you suggest? By the way, my room has almost exactly the dimensions of your listening room, meaning 4.5 meters (15′) by 3.5 meters (12′).

Thanks from the heart,
Nelu
Romania

Thanks for reading my review. I drove the BR03s with an NAD C 316BEE integrated amplifier, which, like the PM5005, is rated at 40Wpc into 8 ohms. The PM5005 is also rated at 55Wpc into 4 ohms. NAD doesn’t give a 4-ohm specification for the C 316BEE, but I measured it as 65Wpc into 4 ohms. So, both amps are very close in terms of power, and I had no trouble driving the BR03s to very loud volumes in my room. As you say, they are easy to drive, so I suspect that the Marantz would have no trouble either.

In terms of matching, you’ll only get an objective answer from me. For example, if you find the BR03s too bright (and I did at times find them to be a bit bright, but I loved their midrange), a different amp (or DAC, or cables) will not solve your problem. Taming a bright speaker can only truly be accomplished by treating the room acoustically (with sound-absorbing materials, for example) and playing with speaker positioning. If it still sounds bright after that, room EQ may be the answer; if that fails, then the only solution may be a different pair of speakers.

I apologize if that’s not quite what you wanted to hear, but it’s my honest answer. . . . Diego Estan

To Diego Estan,

I hope this isn’t intrusive, but I wanted to tell you I was very impressed with your review of the DALI Menuet SE speaker.

I’m not an audiophile, but I do melt when I hear pure, beautiful sound. I listen to shows like Dreamgirls, singers such as Barbra Streisand, Ella, and Nina Simone, and music like 1940s big band and Motown.

Given the state of my health and the shutdown of London theaters and concert halls due to the pandemic, I’ll be at home a lot this coming winter.

In your opinion, is the massive price difference between the Menuet SE and the DALI Oberon 1 justified, and is my Denon CEOL N11DAB system capable of driving the Menuet SE? I’m not looking for loudness, but purity of sound in a small space. I may already have it, but my dealer is happy to swap out my Oberons. Do you think any benefit I’d get would be worth the extra outlay?

Sincerely and with thanks,
Eric
United Kingdom

Hi Eric, it’s not intrusive at all, and thanks for reading my review.

Unfortunately, I’ve never heard anything in the DALI Oberon line. I have had the DALI Opticon 8 floorstanders in my room for review, however. I’d say I preferred the midrange and top end of the Menuet SE to the Opticon 8 ‑- there was more presence, intimacy, and finesse with the Menuet SE. But, of course, it’s a tiny speaker, so loudness and bass output are its main limitations. If these aren’t a concern for you, I wholeheartedly recommend a pair of Menuet SEs, especially in a small room. They are also quite beautiful. As always, if you can listen before buying, please do.

Your Denon at 60Wpc into 4 ohms should be fine for the Menuet SEs, which are rated at a nominal 4 ohms. I had no issues driving them with my NAD C 316BEE. NAD doesn’t spec the continuous output for 4 ohms, but I measured it as 65Wpc into that load. The Menuets have low sensitivity, so they need more power than speakers of typical sensitivity. But because they are small, they can’t play that loudly. Too much power could damage them, but that shouldn’t be an issue with your Denon. Please do let me know if you end up buying the Menuet SEs. . . . Diego Estan

To Hans Wetzel,

Great job with your detailed review of the Technics SU-G700 integrated amplifier-DAC. I am looking for a new integrated amplifier with or without a DAC, or an all-in-one. I have the Naim Audio Uniti Atom now and it’s an excellent sounding all-in-one. However, I need a bit more power at higher volume.

I have Monitor Audio Gold 100 (5th generation) speakers, which are 4 ohms and 86dB sensitivity, and I’m thinking they would benefit from a more powerful integrated amplifier. There are lots of choices: Naim’s Uniti Nova, which is very expensive; the PS Audio Stellar Strata, which is fairly new at $2999 (US dollars) and is an all-in-one; the Technics you reviewed, to which I could add a Bluesound Node 2i; and gear from Hegel Music Systems, Simaudio Moon, and more.

I did have the Hegel Röst before the Atom but could never get the streaming function to work properly. It kept freezing in the middle of tracks while using Mconnect Player. I tried everything, then sold it and bought the Atom. Looking back now I probably should have kept it and added a streamer. Oh, well. You know what happens with this hobby.

So, to get to the point again, which integrated amp powerful enough to make my Monitor Golds sing at all volume levels would you recommend? The Golds were reviewed on [this site by Diego Estan].

Thanks,
Gerald Greene
Canada

I note that that your Naim makes roughly 70Wpc into 4 ohms, which isn’t a lot. The Technics doubles that -- at 140Wpc into 4 ohms you’ll get an additional three decibels of headroom, which should definitely help your cause. I really liked the Technics, so it might be a good solution for you.

Hegel, Simaudio Moon, and PS Audio are all reputable brands making good gear, but I don’t want to push you in one direction over another without knowing more about what you’re looking for in terms of sound or functionality. Given the difficulties you had streaming from Mconnect to the Röst, I would advise considering a separate streamer if you decide on a Hegel amplifier.

The only other integrated amp that I’d throw into the mix is Parasound’s HINT 6. It makes 240Wpc into 4 ohms and should ensure that your Monitor Gold 100s never run out of juice. Happy hunting! . . . Hans Wetzel

To Diego Estan,

Congratulations for your excellent and detailed review of the Triangle Borea BR08 loudspeakers. I intend to buy a pair and am soliciting your help regarding a matching amp choice. My current amplification is an old Jadis JPL preamp and JA80 power amp. Do they fit? 

Please suggest other amp models. Thanks in advance for your kind assistance.  

Regards,
Didier
Madagascar

Normally, I would answer this question with a reference to our National Research Council (NRC) speaker measurements, which we produce in their anechoic chamber in Ottawa, Canada. Unfortunately, just before we were ready to measure the BR08, the pandemic hit, and the NRC has not yet returned to normal operations. Both BR08s are still with me, and we are planning on measuring them once the NRC opens up.

All I have to go with now is Triangle’s specs (92dB sensitivity, and 8-ohm nominal and 3-ohm minimum impedance), and my own experience driving the BR08s with an integrated amp of modest power, the NAD C 316BEE in my small-to-medium-sized room. The NAD is rated to deliver 40Wpc into 8 or 4 ohms. If I had access to our measurements, I could tell you at what frequency (or range of frequencies) the BR08 dips down to 3 ohms. I can tell you with confidence, however, that the small NAD had no trouble driving the BR08s to ear-splitting levels in my room, and that included thunderous bass. I would say that most solid-state amps, rated at 40 or 50Wpc and up and capable of driving a 4-ohm load, would work great with the BR08s in a small- or medium-sized room. The possibilities for amps are endless.

With respect to your JA80 tubed power amp, according to the Jadis website, the amp’s output transformer “allows an adaptation of impedance from 1 to 16 ohms.” In addition, your amp is rated at up to 90Wpc, likely into 8 or 4 ohms. I’d say that if you like your amp, you should be absolutely fine using it with the BR08s. If the BR08s are more sensitive than the speakers you have right now, you may find you notice a higher noise floor with the BR08s, but this really depends on how quiet your Jadis combo is, of which I have no experience with. 

Enjoy the BR08s -- they are great speakers and represent tremendous value. . . . Diego Estan

To Hans Wetzel,

Your review of the Technics’s SU-G700 integrated amplifier-DAC was great and prompted me to order it today. Can I ask how you would compare the DAC in this amplifier to the Chord Qutest, which I already own? Your response would be greatly appreciated.

Kind regards,
Roni Kalsi
United Kingdom

I really enjoyed my time with the SU-G700, and I hope you will, too, Roni. As a reminder, because of the way the SU-G700 amplifies signals, it digitizes all of its analog inputs using a Burr-Brown PCM1804 analog-to-digital converter (ADC), then converts them to analog basically right at the speaker outputs. There is not a typical DAC in it like you would find with most integrated amplifiers. So while you certainly could hook up your Chord Qutest to one of the amp’s analog inputs, that would result in the signal being converted from digital to analog in the Qutest, back to digital again at the input of the SU-G700, and then back to analog once more at the very end of the SU-G700’s signal path. As a matter of signal integrity and fidelity, I wouldn’t advise that on principle, which is why I suspect it makes the most sense to leave the Chord DAC on the sidelines going forward. And to answer your question directly, I don’t have any experience with Chord’s Qutest, so I can’t say how it might sound run through one of the SU-G700’s analog inputs, nor how it would compare to using the Technics’ digital inputs directly.. . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I am from India and was impressed with your honest review on PSB’s Alpha P5 [loudspeaker]. I have a query for you. I like a little forwardness in the lower treble and upper-midrange area. In this area, what do you think about the Alpha P5 and DALI’s Zensor 3? In India, both are priced similarly. Please let me know. Once again, I should say that your review was so excellent that I am planning to buy the complete PSB Alpha home-theater system.

Thank you and greetings from India,

Muthu Kumar
India

Thanks for the kind words, Muthu. I, too, like a little forwardness in the upper mids and lower treble -- it makes recordings sound lively and engaging to my ears. In that regard, I think the Alpha P5 will deliver a small dose of that. Having never heard the DALI Zensor 3, I can’t say how the PSB might compare, but I don’t think that matters. I’m making the assumption that you are thinking about using the Alpha P5 in an Alpha-series home-theater system, in which case I think a pair could easily pull duty as front or rear channels. Personally, if I were building a home-theater system, I’d go with PSB’s Alpha line and not look back -- the value proposition is fantastic. I’m betting that, like me, you’ll be totally smitten with the Alpha P5 if you take the plunge. . . . Hans Wetzel

To Hans Wetzel,

I have read your review of the PSB Alpha P5 loudspeakers, and now I am really interested to get [a pair]. [I am] running Hegel’s H190 [integrated amplifier-DAC], so may I ask how large your listening room is, as you wrote you positioned the PSBs only 20” from [your] front wall?

Best regards,
Erich Hofer
Austria

What a good combination that is. Am I biased because I reviewed the Alpha P5 with Hegel’s H590? Quite possibly!

Based on my review, it looks like I had the speakers closer to the front wall of my room -- around 16” -- so I don’t know if that makes a difference on your end. My “room” is an open-format, modern living space that is 13’ wide and around 25’ long, though that length does not include the kitchen that one end of the room opens into. It’s admittedly a suboptimal arrangement for serious and studious listening, but city living has its compromises. My stereo system is placed around two-thirds of the way down the 25’ long wall, and the couch from which I listen is around 7’ to 8’ away from the speakers (depending on which speakers are in for review and what their optimal placement is). I hope that informs your decision. I should emphasize, though, I really, really liked those Alpha P5s and believe they’d be a great match for your Hegel amp. . . . Hans Wetzel